We are being tried. We are being tested

Rabbi René’s sermon – Shabbat morning service: Liberal Judaism’s Biennial at Home 2020

On the weekend of 22 – 24 May 2020, Liberal Judaism hosted its Bienniel weekend online. Using the latest cutting-edge technology its aim was to give members, friends, and their families three days of services, seminars, and socialising. The theme of the weekend was collaboration: sharing and exploring the best that Liberal Jews can offer, and how partnerships can help us to thrive and open up new opportunities for innovation.

Originally intended to take place at a large conference centre in the Midlands, members of the Biennial Committee, chaired by our own Rabbi, René Pfertzel, were determined to bring the event to people’s homes when it became apparent that the current health crises meant meeting in person would not be possible.

The Shabbat morning service was a truly collaborative event: co-hosted by four Liberal Rabbis together with a number of musicians. Technological prowess enabled individual musicians’ performances to be combined to create some beautiful musical experiences.

We have left behind a world in a dramatic way

Rabbi René gave the morning sermon in which he reflected on the parallels between the current crises caused by the pandemic and the anxiety faced by the Jewish people when travelling in the wilderness:

“We can all relate to our ancestors’ anxiety, to this deep sense of uncertainty they are experiencing in the wilderness. They have left a world that was, if not entirely acceptable, at least familiar to them…… The similarities with today are rather striking. We have left behind a world in a dramatic way. We have been thrown into a new reality …. we don’t know where we are heading to. We don’t know how the new world that awaits us will look like”. 

Collaborative Judaism

Reflecting on how the crises has led to a stronger sense of community , Rabbi René made the connection to the weekend’s theme of collaboration:

“In our small corner of the Jewish world, we have coined the expression Collaborative Judaism, a Judaism of Shutafut, of partnership between all, lay leaders, Rabbis, congregants, seeing ourselves as explorers of the tradition, re-inventing it to make it relevant for today’s Jews”.

Looking at wider society he also reflected on who has kept the world going during this time:

“Not the powerful ones, not the rich ones, but the humble ones, those whom you have called “key workers”, all these people who have looked after you when you were ill in hospitals, who have made sure that food was available in our supermarkets, those who have cared for our elderly, who have collected our bins, who have delivered parcels and food, all these people who have ensured that communities carried on serving the public”.

He concluded with a really positive message for the future:

“The future is holistic, compassionate, and respectful of life in all its forms and of the environment. That is our mission, and that is our message to the world. 

Ken Yehi Ratzon, 

May it be God’s will,

Shabbat Shalom”

You can read his full sermon here.